Speed is Gloucester Catholic's game.
The Rams race through center ice. They fly from end to end. They spin and juke and manuever their way to scoring chance after scoring chance.
But this team's fastest move involves its rapid rise through the ranks of New Jersey ice hockey.
"I didn't think we'd be here this quickly," Gloucester Catholic coach Guy Gaudreau said.
Gloucester Catholic was a great story last season. The Rams went 21-2-1 as a member of the Central Red division, scoring 173 goals, creating quite the buzz with their wide-open style of play.
But that was different. The Rams were in the equivalent of a minor-league division. It wasn't exactly as if they were playing the Riversharks' schedule as opposed to the Phillies' schedule. But it was something like that.
This year the Rams moved into the Gordon Division. That's New Jersey hockey's major leagues. That's where the two established South Jersey powers, Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine Prep, make their home, along with North Jersey royalty such as Delbarton and Bergen Catholic and Christian Brothers Academy.
Guess what? Only the names have changed. Gloucester Catholic is 4-0, and is skating the same circles around Gordon Conference foes they traced around Central Red opponents.
"We want everybody to know who we are," Gloucester Catholic senior defenseman Ryan Meehan said the other day, before a practice at the team's home rink at Hollydell Ice Arena in Washington Township. "We want to make a name for ourselves."
According to njpowerrankings.com, the Web site that ranks NJSIAA-sanctioned ice hockey teams, Gloucester Catholic was No. 8 in the state before the start of the season. In their first four games, the Rams played three teams that were ranked ahead of them - No. 7 St. Augustine, No. 6 St. Peter's Prep, and No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy.
They beat all three by a combined score of 21-6.
The biggest win in the short history of the program came Wednesday night against Christian Brothers, in the Colts' rink in Farmingdale, Monmouth County. Playing an undefeated team on its ice, Gloucester Catholic broke to a 5-0 lead and cruised to a 9-5 victory.
"They weren't ready for us," Gaudreau said. "They had no idea how good we were."
This is a CBA team that has returned several veterans from a club that went 22-5-2 last season and lost to Delbarton in the state final. This is a CBA team that is one of the state's most established programs, the alma mater of Flyers rookie winger James Van Riemsdyk, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft.
And the Rams outshot the Colts, 25-2, in the first period.
"We just came out ready to play," said senior forward Mike McGahey, the Rams' leading goal scorer. "We're just so focused."
Gaudreau, the rink manager at Hollydell, has built the Rams into a state power on the fly, in four years. His team plays a fast-break style, emphasizing speed and puck control in a relentless search for scoring chances.
"I'm a skill coach," Gaudreau said. "That's the kind of hockey player I like. I'll never dump-and-chase. Even when I was coaching the little guys, I used to say, 'OK, guys, let's get some goals.'
"I don't care if it's 10-9, as long as we have 10, we win."
The Rams have a solid defense, with a pair of talented goalies in Alex Crespo and Pat McSparron. Senior defensemen Meehan, Anthony Calabrese, and Joe Usher are seasoned three-year starters.
But it's on the attack when the Rams are at their best. If you're old enough, think 1985 Edmonton Oilers, and you'll get the idea of how this team skates, moves the puck, and lights the lamp.
McGahey, a winger from Blackwood, has eight goals and five assists. Another senior wing, Alexey Kruglov, has four goals and four assists. Junior forward Joe Crespo, Alex's twin, has four goals and three assists.
But the team's best player is junior center John Gaudreau, the coach's son. If the 1985 Edmonton Oilers analogy holds, Gaudreau is little Gretzky.
He has four goals and 10 assists. He had three goals and three assists against CBA.
"I'd rather pass for a goal than score one myself," John Gaudreau said.
John Gaudreau stands around 5-foot-3 and weighs a little more than 100 pounds. But his speed, vision, and stick-handling make him one of the state's most dynamic players. He is being recruited by Ivy League schools such as Dartmouth and Brown, among other college programs.
"Some of the stuff he does, I don't know how he does it," Meehan said of Gaudreau.
The Rams are averaging 7.5 goals. They have big games in January with South Jersey rivals Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine Prep, along with Bergen Catholic and the state's consensus No. 1 team, Delbarton.
"We're going to get a big crowd for that game," Guy Gaudreau said of Delbarton's Jan. 20 visit to Hollydell, a likely match of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams when the new rankings are released on njpowerrankings.com.
It's a remarkable thing. Six years ago, Gloucester Catholic didn't even have an NJSIAA-sanctioned ice hockey team. Now, the Rams are circling the date of the arrival of the state's top-ranked team for the showdown of the season.
Gloucester Catholic athletic director Pat Murphy was only joking when he said the school was negotiating with town officials to freeze Miller's Pond and hold a high school version of the Winter Classic - an outdoor ice-hockey game.
Don't rule it out. Things happen fast with this team.
Who knows? Before long, some folks might even be calling Gloucester "Hockeytown."